Wynwood Art Walk, which takes place the second Saturday of every month, has become the victim of its own success. What started out as a quiet night for art patrons to visit galleries after hours has turned into a raucous block party that often has little to do with art after sundown.
In an effort to attract collectors who have been driven away by the now-hectic evening, Wynwood galleries are now collaborating on a new monthly event called Preview Thursdays, an after-hours event aimed squarely at art collectors and loyal art followers to be held on the second Thursday of every month.
Wynwood Art Walk began about 10 years ago, long before much of the neighborhood had been redeveloped. Gallerists wanted to create a gallery night similar to ones that happen monthly in other large art capitals but in a neighborhood that was at the time still very much emerging.
“It first started really as a safety thing. There was a number of galleries in what was then a very desolate neighborhood. The idea was to coordinate the openings so that there would be a larger mass of people, and also so we could solicit the police and safety organizations in the area to have a presence in an organized way,” said Nina Johnson-Milewski, director of Gallery Diet.
As the neighborhood grew and gained international recognition, so did Wynwood Art Walk. Now thousands of people pour into the neighborhood — roughly bordered by Northwest 29th and 20th streets and Northwest Fifth and Miami avenues — on the second Saturday of every month. Many visitors may be more likely to attend the food truck round-up, the outdoor market, or the numerous parties. Looking at art may be a secondary reason for their visit. While many galleries are open those afternoons, many close sometime between 6 and 9 p.m., which is the time the crowds grow significantly larger — and more rowdy.
While the number of people who attend has risen, the people who matter most have stopped coming: the collectors who support the galleries that have made the neighborhood famous.
“We receive a lot of people [during Second Saturday,] but not the target of people that we wanted. ...We don’t need to have tons and tons of people, people who don’t appreciate the effort we put into our exhibitions,” said Isaac Perelman, gallery co-director at Dot Fiftyone.
Earlier this year, Wynwood galleries began discussing a way to form a new after-hours alternative aimed at providing the experience that Wynwood Art Walk originally had.
After learning that several galleries had new exhibitions opening on the second Thursday of September, organizers gave Preview Thursday a test run that night. They promoted the event quietly, primarily with participating galleries advising those on their email lists that other galleries would be extending their hours.
Several participating galleries called the event a success because many collectors showed up.
While this coming Preview Thursday is only the second so far, there has already been a surprising amount of growth. In one month, the number of galleries that will be participating has grown from roughly a dozen to more than 30. Mali Parkerson, a partner at M+V Art who helped coordinate the new monthly event, says she believes the new night will find the audience it is looking for.
“Hopefully, this will start becoming an event where people that are looking to go to galleries and have a cultural evening will be able to have a more enjoyable environment for them to view the art without all the masses of people,” Parkerson said.
For many of the galleries, Preview Thursdays will act as a supplement to their gallery schedule and not a replacement for the Second Saturday Art Walk. While many galleries have taken to closing early or not opening at all on Second Saturdays, others want to uphold the tradition.
Gallery owners say they don’t foresee Preview Thursday and Second Saturday competing with each other. Tyler Emerson-Dorsch, partner at Emerson-Dorsch Gallery, says that when Second Saturday was created, there was a struggle to bring people into the neighborhood, especially at night. That’s no longer an issue as the neighborhood has grown.
“There’s a good number of foot traffic on any given day, so there stands to reason that there’s room for different types of programming and events at different times of the month,” Emerson-Dorsch said.